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Byron Shire
April 12, 2021

Ballina council to keep meetings away from the little screen

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Jeff-Johnson-EJ-9W6A4683Ballina Council opposed a motion yesterday to film all but confidential meetings for public viewing outside of the chamber meetings.

Councillor Jeff Johnson put forward a notice of motion at yesterday’s meeting in regard to the filming of council meetings. Cr Johnson would like to see all meetings, apart from confidential meetings, filmed for ease of public access and transparency.

Currently the main meeting every month is recorded, and is available for purchase on DVD, but not others. Ballina councillors voted to not record important council meetings.

‘Why aren’t council meetings recorded?’ said Cr Johnson after the meeting. ‘Ballina Shire Council has already invested funds to enable the Council Chambers to be set up to record meetings, both audio and visual.

‘For the last four years Council has only been recording its monthly ordinary meetings. While this is an important first step, it’s time that Council recorded the other important committee meetings as well.

‘At present, some of the major decisions that this council makes are debated during committee meetings that are currently not being recorded. During the monthly ordinary meetings the minutes of these committee meetings are usually passed without debate or comment, thus depriving the public of being able to hear the reasons councillors have voted the way they have.’

Cr Keith Williams also supported the move. ‘In my view, if committee meetings can be easily recorded, then they should be,’ he said. ‘Others felt that as committees only make recommendations to a council meeting, then it was a waste of staff resources.

‘I pursued the issue of making the recordings more easily available. I’m pleased Council will now investigate posting videos online instead of requiring the purchase of a CD-ROM.’

Cr Ken Johnston was of a similar view.

‘I think that the committee meetings referred to should be recorded; however, I was in the minority,’ he said. ‘The motion was clearly lost.’

Cr Ken Johnston said that the quality of the recording of the monthly ordinary meeting is poor. ‘The volume is far too low and the search is clumsy. Complaints were also made that the DVD technology is obsolete.

‘Council staff are going to report back with alternative suggestions.’

Cr Jeff Johnson says he feels Council should always seek to improve its transparency and accountability to the public. ‘Recording the committee meetings and making these recordings available to the public would be a positive step forward as it would allow the public to view and access this information,’ he said.

‘One of Council’s stated objectives is to improve transparency and be open and accountable to the public. I believe that all council meetings should be recorded and available to the public free of charge via Council’s website.

‘Unfortunately, the majority of the councillors did not support my position’.

 

The Motion was lost.

For vote – Crs Jeff Johnson, Sharon Cadwallader, Keith Williams and Ken Johnston
Against vote – Crs David Wright, Keith Johnson, Susan Meehan, Paul Worth, Robyn Hordern and Ben Smith.

 


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1 COMMENT

  1. Greetings,
    I was present at the Ballina Council Meeting yesterday as I was called upon as an applicant in favour of a DA to establish a Riding for the Disabled centre. I believe the Councillors at Ballina run such a well managed chamber and engage in intelligent debate and should be show cased in a short film to promote debate in council Chambers.

    The Riding for the Disabled (RDA) DA was approval. Only one Councillor was opposed. It would be interesting to view a film of that councillors facial expressions of boredom and blankness as I presented the case for the RDA. Also their hangdog appearance when they did not put up their hand and vote with the rest.

    However, that is the value of debate and it should not be used to make people lose face. So general filming would probably serve to restrict debate.

    Peta Best

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